Lucky Comestible 4(5): Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake

October 17, 2008


[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth edition, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on coconut.]

I’m loath to admit it, but I’m one of those people who can’t leave well enough alone.  I’ll be decorating a cake and think, “Oh, it just needs one more flower on there somewhere. . . ” until the top of the thing could pass for a Jackson Pollock with the words “Happy Birthday” meekly peeking through the splotches.  I’m like those middle-aged women (oh, wait, I actually am a middle-aged woman) who don huge, dangly earrings and then wonder if they wouldn’t be complemented by a massive pendant necklace. . . oh, and this lovely, chunky bracelet. . .and must top it off with that favorite equestrian-themed scarf–and can’t forget the cute doggie brooch, of course.  As a student, I’d sit planted at the desk and revise my in-class essays over and over, right up until the very last second when the bell rang (I mean, what if I had left early and later remembered a comma splice I’d neglected to fix?)

And then there’s that cringe-inducing conversation–you know, the one with your One and Only that goes something like this:

Scene: Evening. Ricki and the HH lounge comfortably on the sofa, engaged in animated conversation.

HH: . . . And then the guy says, ‘Yeah, maybe the sandwich on its own is good, but it’s the dill pickle that really makes it great!!”

Ricki:  Ha ha ha ha HA AHA!! Oh, HH, you are just the funniest!! “The dill pickle really makes it great!” Hee hee.  [Leans over to touch his arm].

HH:  Har har hee hee.  What a laugh, eh? Yep, the dill pickle. . . [stretches his arm around her shoulder.]

Ricki: Hee hee, soooo funny.  [Smiling with adoration]: Oh, HH, I love you.

HH:  I love you, too. [Smiles]

Ricki: [Pause].  Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something.

HH [Looking suspicious]: What?

Ricki: Well, you know, I’ve just noticed that I’m always the first one who says, “I love you.” Why is that?

HH [No longer smiling]: Well, that’s not true.

Ricki: Really? When’s the last time YOU said it first?

HH: Um, I dunno. . . last month, probably.

Ricki: No, honey, I’m sure it wasn’t last month. Because remember our anniversary?  And remember when the next weekend, we went out with Gemini I and her hubby?  Well, when we got home, we were sitting on the couch like this, and–

HH:  [Heavy sigh] And you know, we were having such a nice moment there.  I guess you just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?

Hmmm.  This irresistible tendency to push the boundaries manifests itself in my prowess in the kitchen as well (no, no, I’ve moved off that scene of me and the HH now!  I’m talking about cooking, silly!).  I love to tinker with recipes and will frequently alter them considerably, even without trying them in the intended form first.  After a lifetime of baking (okay, minus the first 6 years of my life), I’ve more or less discovered what works and what doesn’t.  And if I attempt something creative that doesn’t quite meet my expectations, I don’t take it personally (unlike my reaction to the HH’s lack of amorous expressiveness). 

One of the issues that’s come up in discussions with the recipe testers for my upcoming cookbook is the matter of substitutions in the recipes. Of course, when the testing process began, I assumed everyone would follow the recipes to a “T.”  However, in reality, it’s not always possible for everyone to acquire the exact ingredients; or they might not have everything on hand; or they might not own the perfectly-sized pan.  It got me thinking, “how often do I follow a recipe exactly?”  The answer?  To quote the infamous book title, less than zero.  (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration; maybe it’s just a little less than less than zero, more like a little more than never). 

But you know what?  That’s perfectly fine.  Really, if you feel comfortable with cooking or baking and want to introduce minor alterations, that’s terrific; the result may in fact be something even better than the original.  The trick is knowing what to substitute, and when it will work.  Spelt for all-purpose?  No problem.  Agave for sugar?  Fine, with adjustments.  Cherry for pumpkin?  Probably not.  And chocolate for eggplant?  Well, that’s just wrong. (Though, of course, you might like to actually combine the two for a terrific result instead).

When I read about Claudia’s tantalizing Strawberry Coconut Coffee Cake on Vagrant Vegan, I knew immediately that I had to make it.  True to form, I adapted the recipe to my own needs and on-hand ingredients, using Sucanat instead of sugar, spelt instead of wheat, and so on. I also decided to bake the cake as an 8 x 8 inch square instead of a 9 x 13 rectangle, as it’s just the HH and me here (and we don’t give The Girls anything too sweet). Then, when I finally went to bake it, I realized strawberries were already out of season–but I had frozen raspberries in the house; why not use those? (and besides, don’t cooked raspberries just impart the most sensational fuchsia hue?).  

In the end, my version isn’t exactly like the original, but this cake still turned out spectacular.  I think the base is a perfect coffeecake batter, one that can handle many deviations and still taste great (which is, after all, the mark of a winning recipe).  The cake itself isn’t too sweet, and it offers up a juicy burst of tangy raspberry in every bite.  Since coconut is one the HH’s favorite foods, he was drawn by the aroma as it toasted in the oven, and couldn’t wait for his chance to taste it. The verdict was unequivocally positive–he gobbled up a piece and then asked for another.

“That was delicious,” he enthused.  “Maybe the cake on its own is good, but it’s the coconut that really makes it great!”  I could have kissed the guy.

He smiled.  “I love that cake!” he said.  What?  Did he say, “love”?

“Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something. . .” I started.  But then I quickly shoved a large chunk of cake in my mouth and swallowed it.

With all of the pink in this recipe, I’m submitting this post to the Power of Pink Challenge for breast cancer, hosted by Jen of the Beantown Baker.  Having recently learned that someone I care about is battling breast cancer, I’m happy to be able to contribute.  The challenge is on until the end of the month if you’d like to submit something pink.

Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake (adapted from Vagrant Vegan)


Like most coffee cakes, this one can serve as both dessert or part of a quick breakfast.  The cake is good on its own, but the coconut really makes it great.


26 Responses to “Lucky Comestible 4(5): Raspberry Coconut Coffee Cake”

  1. to be honest, I skipped the prologue 1st time around and headed right for the recipe! it sounds super yummy! and I hear you on not following recipes exactly. I have done my best, but it really goes against my nature.

  2. VeggieGirl Says:

    I can never leave “well” alone either, Ricki – you’re not alone ;0)

    Loooove the Raspberry-Coconut combination!! Yum!!

  3. ttfn300 Says:

    i smiled, thinking of myself with my rents… but the coconut in that coffee cake really piqued my interest!!

  4. bee Says:

    i am going to make this tomorrow. just picked the last batch of raspberries from my garden. thanks, ricki.

  5. I’m right there with you in not being able to leave well enough alone. Only, when I push the boundaries, I often end up with a debacle (well, where cooking is concerned), whereas your cake looks and sounds heavenly! I am taking down this recipe and will hopefully get to make it soon, as it sounds amazing!

  6. Amanda Says:

    Raspberries AND coconut – two of my favourite things in the whole world!! Together in one luscious-looking coffee cake. Plus the chance to experiement with spelt flour…priceless! 🙂

  7. kathryn Says:

    Ah yes, not knowing when to stop – I know a bit of that one as well. If I just say this and this and this and this and this and this . . . then I’ll have got my message across. Always that little bit too much information.

    With cooking though I’m quite happy to be more minimalist. Or maybe I just have a better sense of when to stop.

    Am enjoying the coconut series. This and year tofu balti dish look amazing. I shall add them to the ever expanding list of things I want to cook.

  8. Diann Says:

    Just so you know, I really do bake your test recipes as instructed! On everything else though, I HAVE to change something!

    This cake looks wonderful and super delicious. And all the links you’ve posted – yummmm!

  9. BitterSweet Says:

    Trust me, I break the rules and leave measuring cups behind every chance I get! Writing recipes can feel a bit confining at times, needing to get everything absolutely precise.. But it’s worth it to have consistent results. There’s certainly a lot to learn from either method though.

  10. Sue Says:

    Mmmm! That looks gorgeous Ricki. Great post, too! I think many of us women are the same when it comes to those special moments. How often I wish I’d kept my mouth shut…

  11. Johanna Says:

    Nice reflections on following instructions in cooking – definitely a hard one esp with the limits of kitchens – and also in blogging the limits of translating recipes across international boundaries – and of course we are all individuals with different tastes!

    I would be tempted to include raspberries rather than strawberries for taste – but where my wallet is involved strawberries would win out – am sure they would both taste great in this cake!

  12. Andrea Says:

    Recipes are just a guide for creative cooks, right? Sometimes I follow exactly, but usually I just can’t. I mostly have to put my own two cents in, as they say. Or maybe it’s because I have blueberries in the freezer.

    Great post, as usual.

  13. shellyfish Says:

    Your little dialogue between you and HH is one I have lived so many times…why can’t we just let things be? It’s so difficult leaving things alone…
    This sounds so yummy! Of course if I wanted to try to make it I would have to totally change the recipe to sub the coconut oil… ha!

  14. Shelby Says:

    That looks so delectable! I love the flavor combination.

  15. Celine Says:

    being a perfectionist can and will be a good thing. ❤

  16. Jen Says:

    Thanks so much for participating. This looks great and I’m going to have to try it soon. I love coconut! I wish you and your recently diagnosed friend all the best.

  17. Lisa Says:

    What a fantastic way to end the series.

    I too can never resist tweaking recipes 🙂 I’ve always been a perfectionist.

  18. holler Says:

    Beautiful cake Ricki! I am so glad you substituted the strawberries for raspberries, much more to my taste, although I am sure the original was fabulous too!

  19. gail Says:

    This recipe with your adaptations looks and sounds delicious!

  20. Lizzie Says:

    Oh my moist! That cake looks a-mazing. I loved the post too of course. And I can totally relate to pushing the boundaries…

    “I look good today? So, I didn’t look good yesterday?”

    Perhaps it’s a female thing 😉

  21. I am such a sad excuse for a baker. *Some*times I whip up icing from VCTOTW… but this time? It’s Pillsbury from a container! (They are surprisingly vegan, though!)

  22. Hello. Even though I don’t drink coffee at all, there’s something about this recipe (could it be the photo) that makes me want to try some. Thanks a lot!

    Your Drugstore in a Bottle

  23. veganhomemade Says:

    Your coffee cake looks so moist and delicious! Yum yum.

  24. Ricki, you never cease to amaze me!

  25. Vegyogini Says:

    Raspberries and coconut together sounds like a winning team!

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